Container Garden Basics: Mix Textures to Catch the Eye

Successful container arrangements are dependent on a number of factors; some, such as colour, are more obvious than others. But the subtler part of feel sometimes takes an arrangement from dull to terrific. A layout which uses plants with the identical feel, through leaves or blossoms, can be dull. But one which incorporates two or more contrasting textures pleases the eye and allows you to take in the beauty of every individual plant.

It is easier to notice the similarity or contrast of texture without the effect of colour, so I will begin with some examples in white and black.

Kim Gamel

Here are just two plants using a similar visual feel: a hosta (Hosta ‘August Moon’, zones 3 to 8) on the left and a coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Kong Rose’, zones 10 to 11) on the right. The wide and quite smooth leaves almost blend together.

Kim Gamel

Adding a contrasting textural component — that the thinner, strappy leaves of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, zones 8 to 11) — provides the layout dimension, even at a monochrome.

Kim Gamel

Following is a pairing which encircles that textural contrast. The blossoms and leaves of the horned violet (Viola cornuta, zones 6 to 11), abandoned, along with also the million bells (Calibrachoa, zones 9 to 11), right, are small and smooth. Together they seem somewhat dull.

Kim Gamel

Adding the wispiness of a sweet flag grass (Acorus ‘Mimimus Aureus’, zones 5 to 11) brings depth to the composition.

Kim Gamel

Texture is very important with a compatible color scheme. In colour, the feel inside this arrangement is apparent and striking. The large, ruffled leaves of the Chinese Steak (Brassica juncea, zones 2 to 11) into the left stand apart from the thin leaves of the purple fountain grass, even though both crops have similar coloring. Finely textured China aster (Callistephus chinensis, zones 2 to 11) rounds out the look.

Once it comes to feel in container layout, opposites attract. By way of example, large, wide leaves work good with small leaves, brief with long, flat with ruffles and so on.

Kim Gamel

There are a few plants I turn to again and again due to the way their feel turns up the volume in just about any container layout. Here the soft, almost fluffy texture of white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver King’, zones 4 to 9) loosens up the tight, dense look of the tiny-leaved dwarf baby’s tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides, zones 9 to 11).

Kim Gamel

The fine, spiky blades of the toffee spin hair sedge (Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’, zones 7 to 10) on the left are a stark yet intriguing mix with all the daring, triangular leaves of the purple oxalis (Oxalis regnellii ‘Atropurpurea’, zones 7 to 10).

The small blossoms of Euphorbia Diamond Frost (Euphorbia hypericifolia ‘Inneuphe’ Diamond Frost, zones 10 to 12) are a go-to favourite of mine. Here they break up the tight look of million bells.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

The dark purple of palace purple coral bells’ (Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’, zones 4 to 8) ruffled leaves (which come in several colours) combine with the thin leaves of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, zones 5 to 9) here to make a layout that practically begs you to achieve out and touch.

Debora carl landscape layout

Another favorite is foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’, zones 9 to 11). Its bottle-brush-like plumes are a terrific counterpoint to thick-leaved succulents, and the bright green colour works well with every color combination.

Kim Gamel

Basket grass (Oplismenus spp) is a fantastic textured trailing plant. The small, multicolored leaves give the look of wings, particularly when fluttering in a snap.

More: Container Garden Basics: How and When to Water Potted Plants

Inform us What are some of your favourite texture-focused plants? How can you design containers with them?

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